Mother’s Day (2011) Review

As you’re reading this -assuming this specific time is right when it goes live or conveniently near the holiday in some futureverse- Mother’s Day is a weekend out. This film? Wrong choice to celebrate with. While Warner is slickly monetizing holidays like New Years Eve, Mother’s Day is not a peppy romantic comedy. No siree bob.

Oh, it has newlyweds, a few married couples, and a happenin’ party. The rest? Rape, murder, arson and rape. This movie likes rape. The only thing Mother’s Day doesn’t have is a tornado, this despite the constant presence of newscasts building towards such an event, and sirens blaring in any outdoor scenario. Talk about a waste of foreshadowing.

Mother’s Day is wholly uncomfortable to watch, a menagerie of mental and physical torture that runs the gamut of modern horror. Breaking into their old home to find it’s been stripped from their hands by foreclosure, a group of unsettling, family-centric serial bank robbers bump into the new owners. Neither side is willing to give much. Weapons are created, guns are fired, and most of the film is tightly packed into a handful of rooms. There’s not much air to breathe with the tension being what it is.

Home invasions have their share of quirks, but Mother’s Day is able to expand itself. The cast isn’t reliant on a helpless, overwhelmed couple. The homeowners, played by Frank Grillo and Jaime King, have guests willing to put up a fight alongside them. Via mental anguish, everyone is forced against each other, men fighting for their wives dignity, women dishing out the dirt on personal lives to save their own. Think “Lord of the Flies,” just without kids or an island… or a tornado. Seriously, there should have been a tornado.

The camera isn’t kind to the viewer, sticking its lens directly into the rampant, gruesome gore effects. That, or emotionally framing them with weeping widows in focus, blown off heads slinking down the wall behind them. Mother’s Day appreciates pain as much as it adores crazy.

The film is nothing without Rebecca De Mornay, carrying maternal instincts to feed the hostages cake, while simultaneously breaking their bones. Her performance is all in the eyes, wide and searing as she loses what little stability her mind offers. Mother’s Day can hinge itself on torture as often as it wishes; without De Mornay’s eyes it’s generic genre fluff. Without tornadoes.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

Anchor Bay issues a delicious AVC encode for this holiday splatter fest, capturing the glaze of grain that textures the image without any concerns. Noise free is always wonderful, and the film stock itself carries the bare minimum of visual impact. It’s rarely elevated even for dramatic purposes.

Mother’s Day works with two color palettes, one which will hit the flesh tones with a deep orange, the other brightening up the blues for stormy exteriors. Few primaries are offered, even blood drained of its reddish hue. Many will find it washed out, even with the push to amp up the flesh tones. Color is reserved with dramatic purpose, without completely draining the appeal.

With such tight photography and limited ability for movement, facial detail becomes a benefactor. With focus squarely intent on keeping the intensity fresh, texture soars. Resolved to the highest capacity, the disc pushes a veritable mountain of pores, gruesome cuts, and burns. You’ll only appreciate the captured detail for so long until people start getting hurt.

Black levels carry an initial edge that wanes down as the film moves on. It avoids crush at the cost of depth, the image suffering more for the weak blacks than the lack of zest in the palette. Note they’re not awful, just missing the edge that would put them into an upper echelon.

Video ★★★★☆ 

Much of the audio mix is accentuated with bursts of LFE to bump up dramatic tension. That’s where Mother’s Day leaves its aural impact. It’s the type of material that rattles and unsettles a room when you’re not ready for it. By comparison, a flipping, purposeful car wreck later only carries about half of the power.

Gunshots are used sparingly, and always in front of the camera, eliminating the need to place stray effects anywhere other than the center. Surrounds will wind up to capture the surrounding thunderstorms and their downpours (and tornado sirens), if not much else. It confines the film further, along with the home’s occupants. Mother’s Day begins with a maternity ward that will pan around to send crying babies into varied positions in the soundfield, a start that won’t be capitalized on by restricted design.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

There’s nothing to go on in terms of bonus features. Not a thing. Not even a menu for extras. How quaint.

(Note: It’s been pointed out that there is in fact a commentary track, but it’s buried in the audio selection menu. The score has been updated to reflect a general score given the disc is no longer here for other consideration)

Extras ★☆☆☆☆